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Shop Around the Corner
Many of you saw the 1998 film, You've Got Mail, but most of you probably missed the film it was based on, The Shop Around The Corner.
Jimmy Stewart stars as Alfred Kralik, the top employee at a small department store in Budapest (yes, the setting is strange, but the film feels like its set in New York, so go with it). Resentment has been building between Kralik and the owner of the shop, Hugo Matuschek (Frank Morgan), but he doesn't know why. The two have been very close for years, sharing a father-son relationship, but they have grown apart. The store's new employee has been adding to his problems at work.
Clara (Margaret Sullavan) finagled her way into a sales position against Kralik's wishes and they have been fighting like cats and dogs ever since. They have opposite views on everything, from clothes to products the store should carry, which only leads to more opportunities for bickering.
Looking for something more out of life, Kralik decides to respond to a personal ad he sees in the newspaper. He starts to fall for this mystery woman, and it is inevitable that they will want to meet. She is everything Kralik wants - intelligent, well read and cultured. It turns out that Clara also has a pen pal who is everything that she ever wanted - a man who is sweet, kind and poetic.
Will Clara and Kralik meet their dream person? Will Kralik find out why Matuschek has grown to hate him?
The movie is a comedic soap opera with some moments of high drama. This style provides a little something for everyone to like. I wish the audience got to hear more of the letters between Kralik and the mystery woman, like we do during You've Got Mail. This would have given us a chance to better understand their attraction. That problem aside, the rest of the film is a good mixture of sweetness, tragedy and comedy.
James Stewart delivers the kind of top-notch performance that you expect from the master thespian, although he was just an up-and-coming talent at the time. He utters one of my favorite lines from movie history as he discusses an impending meeting between himself and the mystery woman. When his co-worker tries to get him excited that he might be meeting a knock out, Kralik responds that he just wants, "to meet and average, lovely girl." He says it with a yearning and honesty that everyone in the audience feels it. We understand it, because that's all we would want.
Both You've Got Mail and The Shop Around The Corner represent their eras. Shop focuses on the male in the story and introduces a plot about his work issues. Mail is a little more personal and touching, while also paying tribute to the original. Both a re great movies, so you can't miss if you rent either.
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Written by Samson Raphaelson
Based on the play by Miklos Laszlo
Margaret Sullavan . .. Klara Novak
James Stewart . Alfred Kralik
Frank Morgan Hugo Matuschek
Joseph Schildkraut .. .Ferencz Vadas
Sara Haden .Flora Katcuck
Felix Bressart . Pirovitch
William Tracy . Pepi Katona
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